Respecting final wishes

Alison and Gordon Tulley from Respect UK at their green burial site near Blyton G110816-5a
Alison and Gordon Tulley from Respect UK at their green burial site near Blyton G110816-5a

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust....

Green burials are giving a new, literal, meaning to the words spoken at countless funerals.

The idea of planning your own funeral might seem a bit morbid to a society which likes to pretend death is something that happens to other people.

But if the number of pre-booked plots at Respect Green Burials is anything to go by, more and more people are thinking about their final send-off.

And they want to be returned to the earth at a place of their choosing.

Respect GB owner Gordon Tulley said: “When people have chosen their plot they often burst into tears with the relief of knowing where they will be buried.”

“People can choose whatever they want for their funeral, as long as it is legal.”

“We have one lady who wants a barbecue at her funeral and another who wants to be buried facing south, instead of the traditional practice of facing east, because she can only sleep when she is facing south.”

Previous funerals have included a ‘rainbow’ one, where the men dyed their beards blue, and one where everyone wrote personal messages onto a cardboard coffin.

Anyone who thinks green burials are just a hippy alternative to a traditional gathering at a church or crematorium couldn’t be more wrong.

People can choose to have a full religious service conducted at the graveside by a minister of religion if they wish. The ground isn’t consecrated but can be blessed by the minister.

Gordon, 54, of Morton, said: “It’s also a way for people of different religions to be buried next to each other.”

One family chose to conduct the whole service themselves, including poems and an extract from Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, as a way of celebrating the life of their loved one.

There are no headstones, instead the plots are marked with something to fit in with the nature landscape, such as a tree, wild flowers, a bench, bird box, or bat box.

Respect has two burial sites, one at Blyton, with 24,000 plots, and one at Scrooby, near Bawtry with 1,250 plots.

These two sites are among the few in the country where animal lovers can also arrange to be buried with their pets.

The full cost of a green burial is £830, which includes £450 to reserve the exclusive right to a plot.

Gordon runs the business with his wife Alison and his son Luke, and they employ two members of staff to look after each site.

Gordon said they had received many letters of thanks from bereaved families. “It’s satisfying to know that we have provided a service which people have found to be of comfort.”

He and Alison are present at the funerals, guiding the mourners discreetly, and taking photos, something not traditionally done at funerals.

“People have said they are glad we do that,” said Gordon. “They can look back on the day and remember the floral tributes, and we can also email photos to family members who couldn’t make it to the funeral so they can feel part of it.”

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